Virtual Gourmet

October 26, 2008                                                                                                   NEWSLETTER

Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lector in "Red Dragon" (2002)


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In This Issue


NEW YORK CORNER: Fiamma  by John Mariani

NOTES FROM THE WINE CELLAR: Pennsylvania Winery Is on a Star Trek Mission and Torture Garden: John Mariani




by John Mariani

Many people may be more in the economic doldrums than usual this winter, but a trip South to Miami may at least provide some sun-rich vitamin rays to help restore one's psychic health. And there are lots of hotel bargain rates to be had right now before the high season kicks in.
     The city has seen some fine culinary talent appear in the last several months, most of them in the trendy Design District, which a year ago had only Michael's Genuine Food as a culinary destination. Indeed, while Miami Beach still thrives on the familiar, like Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant, and the come-and-gone hip eateries along Ocean Drive and Collins Boulevard, there is only one good new restaurants I'd recommend across the water.
     I am also waiting for the re-opening of the old Fontainbleau Hotel, which should be of considerable gastronomic interest, especially since Scott Conant of NYC's award-winning Scarpetta, will be opening up a restaurant there.
     Meanwhile there is a lot of new action on and off the Beach, and a lot of new talent too.  Here are some of the restaurants I think best express what Miami dining is all about right now.

35 N.E. 40 Street

    Chef Jonathan Eismann originally opened Pacific Time on Lincoln Road at the Beach in 1993.   But he got tired of the kind of bandanna-wearing, flip-flop-footed, Bain de Soleil-smelling guests who can’t pronounce “gnocchi” without laughing and wrinkle their chapped noses at the mention of sweetbreads.
     Now, in a large, quickly popular dining room with the inevitable outdoor tables, things are still tropically casual, but Eismann’s food has gained greater character and sophistication, with a stronger grasp of Asian flavors in dishes like his skirt steak with Indonesian spices, fermented black beans, and braised bok choy; his marvelously crisp softshell crab tempura; and addictive hot-and-sour popcorn shrimp with Thai vinaigrette: you will regret offering to share this dish, so order at least two—they’re only seven bucks--and you can have the "Whole Shebang" of 18 small plates for $230.
     Some of Eismann's old signature items are still on the menu, but everything about the new Pacific Time is telling of how Eismann’s cooking has evolved while so many restaurants back on the Beach are still slapping down the same old grilled chicken pizzas and cold pasta salads. Puerto Rican-born 
Chef de cuisine Robert Pagan makes sure everything clicks.
      The large dining room, with 150 seats, is very colorful and beautifully lighted, casual, Floridian, with some echoes of Morris Lapidus in the bar area, with white “buccatini” hanging fixtures made in 1969 by Verner Panton. Khaki, brown, and taupe balance the brighter palette of the room with leather banquettes, bistro tables and chairs, and outside is a very popular outdoor patio.

Pacific Time is open for dinner nightly, and lunch  Monday-Friday.  Snacks and small plates run $4-$19, main plates $18-$34.                                                                                         

b r o s i a

163 NE 39th Street

    Another hip entry to the Design District, Brosia has more of the cast of an outdoor patio restaurant than it does an indoor dining room, which is neither stylish nor very enticing.
Fortunately chef Arturo Ariles' cooking is--a deft mix of lightweight prole food and serious items, all from a well-conditioned mold. A 25-foot long mirror above the banquettes is about as stylish as the 40-seat interior gets.  Outside, the patio, viewed from the floor-to-ceiling glass windows,  encompasses 4,000 of space, focused on a huge mosaic that looks like the shadows on the bottom of a pool or lagoon.
    Artiles has a fine résumé--he's worked locally at Norman's in pastry, then as exec chef at Chispa, both of which had a decided Latino slant. Here at Brosia his range is wider, beginning with some beguiling tapas like a lamb skewer with tzatziki sauce and a generous plate of hot piri-piri shrimp with cucumber sambal.  Already you're probably saying, that's a pretty global reach, and it's true: the menu is all over the place, but the food is good without being overly concerned about its authenticity.  The Niçoise sandwich, with seared ahi tuna, artichoke, olive tapenade, tomato sauce tartare, and piquillo peppers is a happy success of culinary interpretation, and the pappardelle pasta with lobster, baby fennel, and a touch of mint works well. Catalan-style shrimp and clams with chorizo, parsley, chilies, garlic and sherry didn't pack as much flavor as it promised, and the Greek-style "burger of the day" that day I visited was only so-so. The best dish I tried, however, was a classic 12-ounce grilled New York strip steak with pungent-sweet blue cheese-and-caramelized onions, stuffed Mariquillpiquillo peppers with a drizzle of herbed olive oil--sensationally good, and at $26 a steal.
     The desserts are well worth ordering, from a traditional Spanish flan with an orange-almond biscuit to a cappuccino pannacotta with vanilla foam and chocolate cookie.  
       Brosia's obviously built for fun, and it's as good as it is casual, and vice-versa.
Brosia is open for lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner Tues.-Sat., brunch Sun. Dinner starters run $3-$16, entrees  $18-$29.

La Marea
The Tides
1220 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach

      T he restoration and invigoration of The Tides Hotel on Miami Beach has brought back to Ocean Drive a sophistication that has been fading for years.
Built in 1936 by L. Murray Dixon, The Tides has, under contemporary architect Kelly Wearstler, retained the art deco style, largely using sandy colors of beige and white, and this extends into the dining room of La Marea, with bleached wood chairs, oversized, hooded armchairs, and an array of tortoise shells decorating  the walls.
     Exec chef Pietro Rota comes to Miami from Il Sole in West Hollywood. Milanese by birth, he has had long experience working throughout Europe and he brings the kind of professional precision to his food that you don't find enough of on South Beach. With La Marea functioning for breakfast, lunch, brunch, dinner, and snacks, this is a tall order, and Rota must balance the casual tourist's desire for the familiar with his own expertise for authentic Italian specialties.
     Thus, you'll find an excellent seafood stew with scallops, clams, tomato, and garlic, along with sautéed Moroccan tuna filet with spices (also a good choice). By all means start with the schiaccina--a Tuscan foccacia bread filled with tomatoes, burrata, and arugula.  Butter-poached lobster was cloyingly rich, coated with an unnecessary lobster oil, but that burrata mozzarella, with its creamy center, is lustrous, served with roasted tomatoes, arugula, and basil, which makes an ideal appetizer.  Rota's pastas are good, like the paccheri with pork cheeks and porcini mushrooms, though some of the pastas are oversauced.  The best of the main courses I tried were impeccably juicy Colorado lamb chops, simply and perfectly cooked medium rare.  A steamed pompano en papillôte needed some other flavors to perk up the fish itself.
     La Marea is not inexpensive but you get far more for what you pay here than almost anywhere else on the Beach, and you get it with a sure sense of casual chic, too.

La Marea is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Appetizers run $12-$25, pastas $23-$32, entrees $28-$48.         

Mandarin Oriental Hotel
500 Brickell Key

     Though not new (it opened in 2001) The Mandarin Oriental Hotel continues--by a long shot--to be Miami's finest hotel, and Azul is unquestionably its finest restaurant.  The dining room's open, airy, glassed-in panorama of the water, its marble kitchen, its shimmering copper accents and glistening raw bar, and its complete modernity should weather decorous fashion for decades to come, and, after an initial burst of great culinary ideas by Chef Michelle Bernstein (who now has her own place, Michy's), the cooking by young chef Clay Conley, 32, who came out of the Olive Group of restaurants, has never been better.  It is a deft mixture of Floridian ingredients in Mediterranean and Asian styles, always full of color and dash, beautifully presented and served.  Sommelier Cynthia Betancourt matches Conley's ideas with a superb 700-selection winelist that fits the cooking here.
     I had a splendid lunch at Azul recently, putting myself into Conley's hands and beginning with a whimsical and delicious "steak n' eggs" carpaccio and tartare of beef, with crispy egg yolk, truffled artichoke vinaigrette and balsamic vinegar, which sounds a bit too complex, but everything was in perfect proportion of flavor and texture. Next was Japanese hamachi tradition with Peruvian chilies, ginger, soy vinaigrette, and crisp lotus root salad, which reminded me of the best of early Nobu menus. Summer squash ravioli came with a warm chanterelle vinaigrette, whipped goat's cheese, pesto sauce, and tempura-fried squash blossoms--a very lovely dish with contrasting creamy and vegetal flavors.
     Veal tortellini followed, simply dressed with Parmesan and black truffle butter, set on a Port reduction, and then came a lobster salad with hearts of palm, avocado, grapefruit, carrot, and coconut emulsion.  Since I was sharing dishes I was also able to taste yogurt-marinated swordfish with toasted pita and heirloom tomato salad with a brown butter lobster sauce and the slight crunch of hazelnuts--a brilliant dish.
    Colorado lamb got the Moroccan spice treatment with hot harissa pepper condiment, while a tender, fall-from-the-bone lamb shank was curried and served as a bastilla, with raita yogurt sauce; a grilled chop with pepper salad finished the dish.  Crispy Long Island duck leg and a seared breast came with sweet-sour nectarines that cut the richness of the duck, while baby turnips, gingered bok choy, and fried rice buoyed the whole thing with starchy goodness.  A Florida mangrove snapper with butter corn gained complexity from bacon-sherry braised clams, polentas, and garlic spinach--but it was the only dish I thought  overly conceptualized. One more ingredient and I thought the plate would shatter under the weight.
    Desserts closely follow Conley's style of contrasts--a milk chocolate semi-freddo with orange crème brûlées, cocoa nib tuile, and orange sorbet was excellent, and the "deconstructed apple pie" was a plate of roasted apple compote, buttery pecan streusel, cinnamon-caramel gelée, and apple sorbet. What did not work was a basil panna cotta that tasted more like toothpaste than dessert, not helped at all by a tomato marmalade, lemon olive oil sorbet, and cherry reduction--a really bad conceit.
     Azul is one of America's great restaurants, and its being wrapped in such a glorious architectural package makes it stellar in every way and an exemplar in Miami.  Would that more places in the city emulated its excellence.

Azul is open for lunch, Mon.-Fri., for dinner Mon.-Sat. Starters run $14-427, main courses $34-$54.


by John Mariani

206 Spring Street

     When Fabio Trabocchi, who hails from Le Marche, took over the kitchen as chef and partner at Fiamma 14 months ago, it was a something of a gamble--not because he isn't one of the most talented Italian chefs working in the U.S., but because he followed the widely touted Michael White, whose big-hearted style of Italian cooking won Fiamma plaudits from just about all media that covered it. (White was my pick for "Chef of the Year" in Esquire in 2002.) He had even finished a Fiamma Cookbook that awkwardly came out the week he left the restaurant; White is now exec chef and partner at Convivio and Alto.
     Fiamma's owner, Steve Hansen, might have tried to replicate White's style with another likeminded chef, but instead he brought in Trabbochi (below) from The Ritz-Carlton restaurant Maestro in MacLean, Virginia (one of my Best New Restaurants in Esquire in 2001), where he'd distinguished himself for a highly creative, very personalized alta cucina, one much in contrast to what Fiamma's menu had been from the beginning. But as much as I was enamored of Trabocchi's highly refined cuisine in Virginia and applauded the news he was coming to NYC, my first two meals early on seemed strained, at first much too showy and not particularly Italian, and later, somewhat clumsy in trying to balance his haute preferences with a heartier style of cooking.
      Now, after a year, I returned for a meal that, even had it not been lavished with truffles, showed how Trabocchi has cannily hit the right balance at Fiamma. There was a delightful mix of the old and the new, the traditional and the novel, the regional and the global. On any evening you may be treated to dishes from Liguria, Venice, Mantua, or Bologna. On this evening the focus was on Piedmont because that is the origin of the white truffle. Thus, we began with tender squash blossoms stuffed with basil, mozzarella, then fried into addictive fritters. Cream-loaded burrata cheese came with crisp mâche lettuce and slices of Alba white truffles, followed by a superb, very thinly sliced vitello tonnato with a tomato confit. With these we drank a
medium-bodied, well-fruited Contra Soarda, Vespaiolo 2006 from the Veneto.
     White truffles have a delicate flavor and aroma that is enhanced when just slightly warmed by cooked food, and the next course was ideal--a fried egg with pancetta, topped with the truffles. Roasted veal sweetbreads with Parmigiano shavings, truffles, and the earthiness of Casteluccio lentils made for a perfect autumn appetizer.
     Next, three wonderful pastas: cotechino sausage was cuddled into tortellini and served with chanterelles, hazelnuts, and white truffles; thin tagliolini with nothing more than butter and truffles; and the classic Piedmontese dish of risotto with truffles, accompanied by another Piedmontese wine,
Malvira, Roero Superiore 1995. A  rich and vibrant Caparzo Brunello di Montalcino 2002 was served with the main course of finely grained venison with creamy polenta and the last light rain of truffles. The range of the food was amazing, but the number of courses did not make us feel stuffed, only pleasingly satisfied. No, that is too small praise: we were enchanted with everything that evening.
     We ended with an array of luscious desserts, none overly fanciful, rather a nice way to end a meal of such delicacy and so many white truffles.
      Fiamma's winelist, overseen by Anya Zawieja, is one of the best in the city, with 700 selections--about 60 percent Italian--in 7,000 bottles.
     Trabocchi has always been a master of Italian cuisine in the 21st century style, and now, after some nips and tucks, he has established Fiamma as one of New York's most exciting Italian restaurants.

Fiamma is open for dinner only Mon.-Sat. and offers a 3-course dinner for $85, 5 courses for $105, and 7 at $125, with an optional $110 wine pairing.



Pennsylvania Winery Is on a Star Trek Mission, Complete with Torture Garden
by John Mariani

    The mission statement at Chaddsford Winery in Pennsylvania’s historic Brandywine Valley sounds like the opening of a “Star Trek” episode: “Chaddsford Winery began as a dream. To go where no one else on the east coast had gone.”
      Which is not to say Chaddsford is the first to make wine in Pennsylvania. Indeed, William Penn himself brought vine cuttings from Europe to plant near Philadelphia in 1683, and vineyards flourished up until Prohibition. Still, with its repeal in 1933 the newly created Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board discouraged new wineries.  Even so, there are now about 130 wineries throughout the state, most very small.
     What Chaddsford’s owners, Eric and his wife Lee Miller have done, since starting up in 1982, has been to expand the possibilities of what a winery can and needs to do to thrive in the state. At any given time Chaddsford produces 20 different wines, from its portfolio collection that includes a self-proclaimed Super Tuscan blend called Rubino to fancifully named Seasonal Selections like Sangri-La Sangria, Spiced Apple Wine, and Holiday Spirit.
     Then there is the “torture garden,” a small plot on their estate (an hour outside of Philadelphia) where Eric experiments with new varietals to see if they can survive Pennsylvania’s weather and humidity. In recent plantings, barbera did; nebbiolo did not.
     The Millers will do anything to promote their business—tours, tastings, wine classes, vintner’s dinners, festivals, concerts like the Brandywine Big Bang BBQ, a Corporate Open House, catering off and on premises, and designing custom labels for people’s weddings and birthdays.
     “Distributors are not interested in taking on small wineries,” says Lee Miller, 60. “In Bordeaux they are in the wholesale business, but we are in the retail business, so the reason we make so many different kinds and styles of wines is because when people visit us they want to taste a variety to see what kind they like. We are not some college professor with two acres who makes wine as a hobby in his garage. This is our livelihood and our passion.”
    The Millers live on the estate (right) in a 200-year-old house not far from the Brandywine Museum. (The vineyards are actually some 40 minutes away.) It is at the estate visitor’s center where they sell 50 percent of a total production of 25,000 cases. The State Liquor Control Board buys about 4,00; the rest is sold in two winery-owned stores and distributed to Maryland and Delaware.
      Eric, 59, was born in San Bernardino, CA, but lived as a child in Burgundy and later made wine his late father, Mark Miller, at Benmarl Vineyards in New York’s Hudson Valley. Eric believed the terroir in the Brandywine Valley would be ideal for Burgundy varietals like chardonnay and pinot noir, which have done well.  But in order to appeal to as many tastes as possible Chaddsford makes wines from more than a dozen varietals.
     After tasting several of Chaddsford wines I could sense the seriousness of purpose behind the Millers’ designs.  The pinot noir 2005 ($34.99)—which Eric calls on the label “Oh Heartbreak Grape” because of pinot noir’s difficult reputation—is clearly, cleanly expressive of the varietal’s ripe, cherry-like flavor but without the barnyard odor of so many poorly made pinots.  A perfect autumn that year provided intensity but the alcohol was ideal—13.9 percent—to give it body without heaviness.
      The chardonnay is pleasantly not oaky, retaining the flavor of the grape.  The syrah ($17.99) and chambourcin ($25.99) I tasted were pleasant, if not distinctive. The Due Rossi ($24.99)—“two reds”--made from an unconventional blend of sangiovese and barbera is—a good food wine with a balance of minerality and soft fruitiness.
      The Millers still battle with the monopolistic Liquor Control Board on a regular basis. “We have trouble getting wines on the state’s list,” he says. “We complicate their lives. They’re used to dealing with wineries whose owners are either in it for fun and games or just don’t know anything about the business.”
      Eric (left) believes the future is very rosy for Pennsylvania wines, however. “There are a lot of people with money who are serious about opening new wineries and making the best wines they can.  And the locals are very supportive. I find I spend a lot more time trying to get a handle on the terroir out here and less in the wine cellar.”
      Surprised by the success of his Spiced Apple Wine ($12.99), he scratches his beard and says, “It’s good to make money—we were pretty poor when Lee and I started Chaddsford—but I’m not sure if I want to be the manager of a successful product rather than refining all we’ve tried to achieve out here.”

John Mariani's weekly wine column appears in Bloomberg Muse News, from which this story was adapted. Bloomberg News covers Culture from art, books, and theater to wine, travel, and food on a daily basis, and some of its articles play on the Saturday Bloomberg Radio and TV.



After biting into a Subway sandwich, John Agnesini thought something "didn't taste right," then was horrified to find a a 7-inch serrated blade in the bread. Agnesini said it "could've slashed" the side of his mouth. Instead, he contended he became ill with "severe stomach issues" for hours after eating, from food poisoning from the knife. Subway restaurants spokesman Kevin Kane said food safety and customer comments are taken "very seriously" and that the company is "investigating the facts."


“Folks here don’t talk about it but early visitors to the Napa Valley weren’t looking for Chardonnay and a $1,300 a night hotel room.  They were looking for work, and, often, looking after relatives who’d been checked into the Napa State Asylum for the Insane. Renamed the Napa State Hospital, the place sits well off the beaten tourist track. A punk band called Cramps once gave a concert there in 1978 (the video can be seen on YouTube). Since then the hospital, like much of working Napa, has been mostly ignored.”—Holly Finn, “Review of Redd,” Financial Times.



TO ALL PUBLICISTS: Owing to the amount of material sent to this newsletter regarding Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's dinners--many of which are only announcements as to price fixed dinners--it is impossible for me to include any but the most unusual of events for those holidays in Quick Bytes.
--John Mariani


•    On  Oct.  31-Nov. 2 “Day of the Dead Dining” will be featured at Zocalo in Chicago, with a costume contest, $6 Don Julio Cocktails and DJ Miguel Martinez. Call  312-302-9977; visit

 * On  Election Night, in Anaheim, CA, Bruno Serato of The Anaheim White House is hosting “Race To The White House,” featuring live coverage of the election proceedings on TV screens and  a 4-course Obama vs. McCain menus, at $44 pp. Call (714) 772-1381 or visit

* NYC’s  Da Silvano Restaurant will be offering $20.08 pricing on all menu and daily specials normally priced over $20.08 on Nov. 4 in honor of Election Day. Da Silvano’s sister bar and restaurant next door, Da Silvano Cantinetta will also be showing the news coverage of Election Day from 12pm until closing. Call 212-982- 2343. For Da Silvano Cantinetta,  212-844-0282;

* On Nov. 8 NYC’s Rosa Mexicano Lincoln Ctr. will hold a cooking demo and lunch for $45 pp. Executive chefs David Suarez and Joe Quintana share the secrets behind 3 classic moles: Amarillo, Verde and Coloradito.  Call 212-397-0666 ext.27.

* On Nov. 9 McCormick & Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant (in San Francisco in Ghirardelli Square/(415) 929-1730) and Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto (in Berkeley at 1919 Fourth Street/(510) 845-7771) will be offering all U.S. military veterans a free lunch or dinner entrée in appreciation for their service to our country.

* NYC’s Brasserie 8 ½ will celebrate its 8 ½ - year anniversary this November,  starting at lunch on Nov. 10 thru dinner on Nov.  17. Executive Chef Julian Alonzo has prepared a tasting of 8 ½ dishes, for $28.50 pp. Call (212) 829-0812.

* On Nov. 10 & 11 The Art Institute of Chicago are inviting Chicagoans to a French Masters dinner featuring the “Devine Art: Four Centuries of European Tapestries,” hosted by Mon Ami Gabi Oak Brook. $75 pp. er person, plus tax and gratuity, the evenings begin with a wine reception at 6 p.m. The presentation follows along with a multi-course French feast and dessert will conclude the dinner. Reservations are required and can be made by calling Mon Ami Gabi/Chicago at 773-348-8886, or Mon Ami Gabi/Chicago at 630-472-1900.

From Nov. 10-15 in Plainview, NY, Maxwell & Dunne's is hosting “Free Steak Week.” With the purchase of any steak entrée, diners can also select a Porterhouse, Kansas City, Rib Eye, Filet Mignon, or Skirt Steak as a complimentary companion entrée.  Visit or  call 516-694-6200.

* On Nov. 12 Chicago’s Cuatro Executive Chef Edie Jimenez will prepare a 4-course dinner with 10 Cane cocktails for $80 pp. Call 312.842.8856; visit

* On Nov. 14 in New Orleans the Emeril Lagasse Foundation celebrates its 4th Annual Carnivale du Vin, which culminates on Nov. 15 with a star-studded gala and premier wine auction at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside Hotel.  Chefs and vintners, or “Krewe du Vin,” will showcase their  cuisine and wines, incl.  Emeril Lagasse, Thomas Keller, Mario Batali, Michael Mina, Gale Gand, Gemstone Vineyard, Au Bon Climat, Bonny Doon Vineyard, Broadbent Selections, Caymus Vineyard, Ferrari-Carano, Kosta Browne Winery, Rubicon Estate and Williams Selyem. Visit or call 504.212.2222.


NEW FEATURE: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linking up with three excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  To go to his blog click on the logo below: THIS WEEK: SMART DEALS: Christmas on Sale in the Caribbean


Eating Las Vegas is the new on-line site for Virtual Gourmet contributor John A. Curtas., who since 1995 has been commenting on the Las Vegas food scene and reviewing restaurants for Nevada Public Radio.  He is also the restaurant critic for KLAS TV, Channel 8 in Las Vegas, and his past reviews can be accessed at Click on the logo below to go directly to his site.


Tennis Resorts OnlineA Critical Guide to the World's Best Tennis Resorts and Tennis Camps, published by ROGER COX, who has spent more than two decades writing about tennis travel, including a 17-year stretch for Tennis magazine. He has also written for Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, New York Magazine, Travel & Leisure, Esquire, Money, USTA Magazine, Men's Journal, and The Robb Report. He has authored  two books-The World's Best Tennis Vacations (Stephen Greene Press/Viking Penguin, 1990) and The Best Places to  Stay in the Rockies (Houghton Mifflin, 1992 & 1994), and the Melbourne (Australia) chapter to the Wall Street Journal Business Guide to Cities of the Pacific Rim (Fodor's Travel Guides, 1991).  THIS WEEK: Justine Henin Opens Florida Tennis Academy.

Family Travel Forum: The Family Travel Forum (FTF), whose motto is "Have Kids, Still Travel!", is dedicated to the ideals, promotion and support of travel with children. Founded by business professionals John Manton and Kyle McCarthy with first class travel industry credentials and global family travel experience, the independent, family-supported FTF will provide its members with honest, unbiased information, informed advice and practical tips; all designed to make traveling a rewarding, healthy, safe, better value and hassle-free experience for adults and children who journey together. Membership in FTF will lead you to new worlds of adventure, fun and learning. Join the movement.

Family Travel Forum

All You Need to Know Before You Go


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Editor/Publisher: John Mariani. Contributing Writers: Robert Mariani,   John A. Curtas, Edward Brivio, Mort Hochstein, Suzanne Wright, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographers: Galina Stepanoff-Dargery,  Bobby Pirillo. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.

 John Mariani is a columnist for Esquire, Wine Spectator, Bloomberg News and Radio, and Diversion.  He is author of The Encyclopedia of American Food & Drink (Lebhar-Friedman), The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway), and, with his wife Galina, the award-winning Italian-American Cookbook (Harvard Common Press).

 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from by clicking on the cover image.

My newest book, written with my brother Robert Mariani, is a memoir of our years growing up in the North Bronx. It's called Almost Golden because it re-visits an idyllic place and time in our lives when so many wonderful things seemed possible.
    For those of you who don't think of the Bronx as “idyllic,” this book will be a revelation. It’s about a place called the Country Club area, on the shores of Pelham Bay. It was a beautiful neighborhood filled with great friends and wonderful adventures that helped shape our lives. It's about a culture, still vibrant, and a place that is still almost the same as when we grew up there.
Robert and I think you'll enjoy this very personal look at our
Bronx childhood. It is not yet available in bookstores, so to purchase a copy, go to or click on  Almost Golden.
--John Mariani

© copyright John Mariani 2008